They’ve been here since before the advent of Social Media– the Internet troll. Even now of all times, as the news of COVID-19 sweeps the globe, there are individuals who find some personal satisfaction, perhaps even justification, for sowing fear, misinformation or worse. And they can do it anonymously and without personal consequence. This is not a right of free speech. Free speech does not give one the right to spread lies. Really, we all have more than enough to deal with right now.
Fortunately, there are ways to deal with them and protect your name, your company and your customers:
Warning: Even if you’ve done your due diligence, there will be times where you will have to deal with a bad actor. When you do, see this an opportunity to reinforce your leadership role for all to see.
- Speak the truth. Whether a troll spreads false or exaggerated claims about your product or service—or anything for that matter—your first best tool to diffuse a possible additional crisis (they like to multiple in times like this), is to communicate an accurate representation of any real problem. If there is one, address it accurately and steps you’re taking to resolve it. Trolls don’t want to hear about solutions, but your real customers do.
- Provide perspective. Keep in mind we’re operating during a national crisis. Remind people of what you are doing to help during the COVID-19 emergency. Highlight examples from people showing how you helped them solve a problem. An inspirational response can earn you a deserved sympathetic audience. Acts of goodwill should be publicized.
- Make a friend. Simply deleting a troll’s post can sometimes encourage more posts. Remember, everyone is watching how you’re handling this, providing you a great opportunity to show excellent leadership. If you find you must address the person, treat them with the same respect as you would anyone else. Your audience in turn will only respect you even more. At worst, the troll will become bored and shuffle off to his cave. At best, you’ve gained yourself another loyal customer. Tidbit: if the troll is excessive and relentless in causing havoc, it is also your duty to cut them off. Your customers and loyal followers will expect you too.
Join our social media channels for more upcoming tips to master COVID-19 communications. And if you have a story to share, then by all means share it with us.